Wine and Friends

Danby 75 Bottle Wine CoolerOne of my favorite things about wine is its ability to encourage a very communal and sharing atmosphere. Yes, the alcohol in wine can, of course, kick the social aspect of a gathering into high gear, but I’m speaking more about the inclination for wine lovers to want to share their favorite bottles with friends and family.

I have many great bottles in the “cellared” portion of my Danby 75 bottle Wine Cooler and many others that are ready in the near-term, yet I rarely open those bottles on a normal weeknight. People save bottles of wine for special occasions all the time, it’s one of the main things you read about around the holidays in all of those adds for Champagne and nice Napa Cabs or red Bordeaux’s.

Yet I’m speaking more about the people at a particular occasion, not the “occasion,” itself. The reason to open a special bottle is provided by those loved ones that are present, they make the occasion special. I save these bottles that are nice and ready to go for the people that I like and that I know will enjoy them as much as I will enjoy them. A lot of my friends enjoy wine across all levels of interest from finding it an enjoyable quaff, all the way to the obsession that grips me.

I know which varietals and which producers they all enjoy and I purposefully hang onto the ones that I know they’ll like until we meet and “clink” again. The wines then figure to me more as a reminder of the people with whom I enjoy sharing my life and my favorite wine, rather than an experience yet to be enjoyed.

With that in mind, I just had another “people occasion” where I shared a rather nice bottle that I got from the Hess Collection wine club. I meet most Fridays after work with some fellow wine lovers to have a little happy hour tasting session of whatever wines we happen to have on hand. We all usually get a 2 oz tasting pour and just have a nice, mellow social gathering. It’s not a “special occasion,” so to speak, but it’s special to me, since this might be the only time all week that I get to see these characters!

Hess CollectionThis time I had actually saved a bottle from the latest Hess wine club shipment, the 2001 Hess Collection Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I love Hess’ Cabs and red blends the best, and I knew that this bottle would be a hit for the group. The wine is from a fantastic vintage, albeit, maybe a little too young to open, but what the heck…I have another bottle! An interesting side-note about labeling and appellations. This wine is labeled Napa Valley, yet all the grapes come from their Estate vineyards on Mt. Veeder. I think that they were probably worried that Mt. Veeder might not have the same cachet as Napa Valley on a label, but that’s just a guess. They now label this same wine as Mt. Veeder AVA.

Testarossa VineyardsAnother friend brought a really nice Pinot from Testarossa Vineyards. I tried it after the Cab, unfortunately, but the wine was still fantastic. She brought the 2005 Testarossa Vineyards Bien Nacido Vineyard Elder Series Pinot Noir. ’05 is a great vintage, all around, for Northern California wines and this wine certainly proves that fact. I looked into the whole “Elder Series” labeling and added a bit about that in the Personal Notes section of my review of the wine, if you follow the link above.

All in all, another nice gathering of friends sharing the wines that they love…apparently I’m not the only one that likes to share my wine!

Check out all of the links above for more information and reviews of the wines that I’ve listed.

Etude Back-Vintage Tasting

I had the wonderful opportunity this weekend to taste some back-vintages of Etude Napa Valley Cabernet and Carneros Pinot Noir. Etude is a well-respected new-world producer of many white and reds sourced mainly from their vineyards in Carneros and other parts of the Napa Valley. Some people think that they are best known for their incredible sub-appellation specific Cabernets, however, I think of them more as a great house of Pinot Noir. The winery is housed in the grand old buildings that formerly housed RMS Brandy Distillery.

Etude Winery

Etude was founded about 25 years ago by the New World Pinot Noir luminary, Tony Soter, who still acts as one of head winemakers. The other outstanding winemaker is Jon Priest, another veteran of the California wine industry.

All of the wines available for tasting that I’ve listed below were poured from Jeroboams and decanted in a Riedel Cabernet-Merlot magnum decanter prior to tasting. The amount of time in the decanter really varied, so I can’t really comment on how long they were getting some air.

The highlights of the night were the 1998 Etude Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2001 Etude Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, even if the ’01 was still a bit muted. Coming from the large format bottle, it could have been in that sometimes quoted “5-10 year dumb stage” for Napa Cabernets. This refers to the fact that wines are constantly evolving as they age and sometimes you find that great Napa Cab’s have a stage in their development about 5 – 10 years after their vintage where they can be found to be surprising muted as their flavors and structure continue to integrate. The other wines we tasted and greatly enjoyed, are listed below.

1995 Etude Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

1994 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir

1996 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir

1999 Etude Carneros Pinot Noir

Check out the links above for my tasting notes on these outstanding wines and the background information on Etude and wine, in general.

Maui Weekend & Wine


Beth and I made our way back to Maui this past weekend for a 4-day sojourn with our friend Troy, who lives in a little bungalow above Wailea, in Maui Meadows. Along with sleeping on his screened in lanai, heading to the beach everyday and BBQing Upcountry, we had a fair bit of wine!

First of all, if you live on Maui or are heading that way (lucky you!), the best place to purchase wine is actually right near the airport in Kahului. Hawaii Liquor Superstore, despite the misleading name, is not only the best wine store I’ve been to on Maui, but one of the best that I’ve ever been to, period. It has an incredible selection of wines from around the world, even giving some good rack space (yes, besides the display bottle, all are horizontal) to Chilean and Argentinian wines. I’m used to this over here in the Bay Area, but I know that is not common across the US, much less on the islands where Maui has only two dominant wine distributors. The prices are very comparable to what I’ve seen at home and some Californian wines were actually cheaper. They even have back vintages of some wines, like one of my favorites, the 2001 Galante Vineyards Blackjack Pasture Carmel Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. We spent a tidy sum here, buying a wide array of mainly Californian wines, but also delving into New Zealand (I love their Sauvignon Blancs), France and Chile.

Tedeschi Vineyards

On Saturday (10/13/07), we made the aforementioned trek Upcountry and headed across the lower slopes of Haleakela over to the lone winery on Maui, Tedeschi Vineyards. After living in and around Napa, Sonoma and Livermore most of my life, I’ve always wanted to check out the winery on Maui. The grounds of the winery are beautiful, all the buildings are from the turn of the century or earlier, and the gardens are very alluring.

All of Tedeschi’s wines are non-vintage, meaning that they are a blend of multiple vintages, which can be done to provide a consistency for the wine across each vintage. They make 3 pineapple wines, 3 grape-based wines and 1 raspberry framboise. The tasting was structured so that you could choose from a list that segregated wines into pineapple still wines; pineapple and grape sparkling wines, grape still wines and the 1 dessert wine. You can then choose to taste 4 out of the 7 wines they currently have available.

I started off with a wine that has surprised me in the past, the NV Tedeschi Vineyards Maui Splash!, a pineapple still wine. It has the color of a Pinot Grigio or light Sauvignon Blanc that colors the nose and smells of the ripest, sweetest pineapple. The palate then surprises you, however, with a profile that is much more akin to a decent, dry Pinot Grigio and only the slightest notes of pineapple in the finish. Very refreshing and very surprising!

I then headed over to the rather solid NV Tedeschi Vineyards Rose Ranch Cuvee Sparkling Brut. Before finishing with the Red (NV Tedeschi Vineyards Ulupalakua Red), which I didn’t really care for, I had the NV Tedeschi Vineyards Upcountry Blush dry rose. This was another nice surprise and rather tasty and refreshing, particularly in the hometown tropical climate.

We had a fantastic weekend with a big thank you going out to Troy for his great friendship and hospitality. Thank you also, to the great people behind the tasting bar at Tedeschi! Click on the links above to find out more about the places I mentioned, as well as to see the tasting notes I have uploaded to for each wine.

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